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Syria death toll tops 136,000, future talks uncertain

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Syrians carry a dead body following a reported airstrike in the Tariq al-Bab district of the northern city of Aleppo on February 1, 2014/AFP

Syrians carry a dead body following a reported airstrike in the Tariq al-Bab district of the northern city of Aleppo on February 1, 2014/AFP

DAMASCUS, Feb 2 – The death toll in Syria’s civil war has topped 136,000 after January saw one of the conflict’s bloodiest months, an NGO said Saturday, as violence claimed yet more civilian lives.

The prospects of a peaceful outcome looked dim after 10 days of talks in Geneva yielded no tangible results and the regime said it was unsure whether it would return to the negotiating table.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll at the end of January was at least 136,227.

The Britain based group’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman, said “January was among the bloodiest months since the beginning of the conflict” in March 2011.

Among the dead were 47,998 civilians, including more than 7,300 children.

The Observatory said the real toll could be much higher because of the extreme secrecy of rebels, jihadists and the regime about casualty figures.

At the end of December the toll was 130,433, but fighting between rebels and the regime, as well as between them and jihadists, has claimed nearly 6,000 lives since then.

The conflict began after a regime crackdown on peaceful anti-government demonstrations, sparking an armed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

In addition to the dead and a much larger number of wounded, millions of people have been displaced internally and as refugees.

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There was no let up in the bloodshed on Saturday, with at least 46 civilians killed by helicopter-borne barrel bombs dropped on the northern city of Aleppo, the Observatory said.

Abdel Rahman told AFP that among the victims were “33 civilians in the Tareq al-Bab area” alone.

At least another seven people died in a double car bombing carried out by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targeting a rebel headquarters in Aleppo.

Moderate and Islamist opposition fighters have been battling ISIL since early January, after accusing the group of a spate of abuses against civilians and rebels.

Meanwhile, in the central province of Hama, the Observatory said at least 12 government fighters were killed around the town of Morek.

Deadly Lebanon car bombing

The group said rebels, including from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, had seized Morek overnight, cutting a strategic regime supply line from Hama city to two military bases in neighbouring Idlib province.

And in neighbouring Lebanon, a car bomb killed at least four people and wounded 15 at a petrol station in the eastern town of Hermel, a stronghold of the Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah near the border, the army said.

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